Eoin Morgan Virat Kohli India England T20I 2018
Eoin Morgan (left) and Virat Kohli pose with the trophy before the series Getty Images

India will take on England in the first T20 International of the 3-match series, at Old Trafford, Manchester. England are coming off an emphatic whitewash of Australia (5-0 in ODIs, 1-0 in the T20I). India, on the other hand, have played a solitary Test (against Afghanistan) and 2 T20Is (against Ireland) over the past few months. But then again, the Indians have played an intense IPL, and there is no question of lack of match practice.

Make no mistake: England are the toughest attack to bowl at. Jos Buttler has been in ominous nick, and has batted at all paces, adapting to all conditions against Australia. Rajasthan Royals had used him at the top, and the England team management has taken the cue. Buttler will be the biggest threat to India, and in fact, on current form, to any side in the world.

Buttler will be followed by Jason Roy, Alex Hales, and Eoin Morgan, all of whom are capable of tearing into any bowling attack. With Ben Stokes returning and Jonny Bairstow having discovered a new gear, Joe Root may find it difficult to break through though Paul Farbrace has made it clear that Root will play. The axe may fall on Bairstow, who will probably be wasted down the order. Bairstow’s recent success has come at the top, and he has been displaced by Buttler.

Moeen Ali will definitely make it, as will David Willey, Liam Plunkett, and Chris Jordan. Had Stokes been fit Adil Rashid would have got a chance, but England may not risk a wrist-spinner against India. In that case Tom Curran may come in.

England likely XI for 1st T20I against India: Jos Buttler (wk), Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Eoin Morgan (c), Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, David Willey, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Tom Curran.

India will miss Jasprit Bumrah against these English behemoths, all of whom are capable of monstrous hits. The gap will probably be filled by Umesh Yadav. Umesh had impressed for Royal Challengers Bangalore, and will definitely make this opportunity count, if picked. It may not be advisable to pair Bhuvneshwar Kumar with someone as raw at international level as Siddarth Kaul or Deepak Chahar the batting line-up is too strong but the ball may fly at Umesh’s pace. Both wrist-spinners will play, and may prove to be crucial to the outcome of the match.

Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and MS Dhoni will obviously start. Suresh Raina will get the nod, at least for his bowling if not for his batting. KL Rahul should get a nod ahead of the equally deserving Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey. Despite not living up to the expectation of winning matches single-handedly, Hardik Pandya will obviously play as all-rounder ahead of brother Krunal.

India likely XI for 1st T20I against England: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (c), Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal.

Predictions: The sides were evenly matched till Bumrah’s injury was announced. India will sorely miss a bowler of Bumrah’s calibre. The English batting line-up looks incredibly and 220-material. India, too, have a string of big hitters, but England probably has a mightier assortment. But then, India have an incredible pair of wrist-spinners on display, and they will be backed by Bhuvi, no less. Expect a runfest full of sixes, and the side with the better bowling attack to prevail.